STARTING SMALL: Adventures of Starting a Small Business
Starting a small business is all about taking chances. Everyone does it differently. Some go about it slowly, taking small steps every day. Others close their eyes and leap. Our journey falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum (though probably a tad closer to the slower end).
We didn’t start ARCHd overnight.
We worked hard. We googled A LOT. We planned. We stressed out. We celebrated. We experienced disappointments. We evolved … and a lot of other things that I’m sure we probably did out of order. There was no “How to build a small business” manual to reference, with long lists of accomplishments to check off each week. We guessed a lot, experimented with trial and error. And we built ARCHd up slowly, year by year, milestone by milestone, while holding down full-time day jobs. And then, a few weeks ago — on August 1, 2019 — we took the leap of quitting those day jobs to become full-time entrepreneurs.
Because we’ve been planning this transition for a few years, it would probably be more accurate to say we took a significant hop, rather than a full leap. But now, we’re officially full-time small business owners. And AS full-time small business owners (can you tell I really like saying that??), we want to share more of that journey with you. So, going forward, we’re pulling the curtain back a bit for more “behind the scenes” stories and lessons we learn while on this crazy journey as — once more, with feeling — full-time small business owners.
This week, the theme “take chances” kept popping up. In addition to going full-time with ARCHd, there are a few other instances where we “took chances” this week.
A SUPREME CHANCE
Back in January, I (Lindsey) illustrated a trio of “dissent” collars, inspired by those worn by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Having recently watched RBG (the documentary on Justice Ginsburg’s life and career) for our monthly documentary club (think book club, but instead of reading a book, we watch a new documentary each month and get together to discuss it over dinner and wine), I had RBG on the brain. So, the collars illustration. We turned that one design into wood art, an art print, a marble coaster set and a wood ornament.
Then, the week before we went full-time, we took a small chance. We packaged up a piece of our RBG wood art with a set of matching coasters. We mailed them directly to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s official Supreme Court office, along with a personal letter sharing all about our doc club and how much we enjoyed learning more about her life and how much of an inspiration she is to us and women everywhere.
We weren’t really sure what would come of it. Would she actually see it? Would a staff member open it and toss it onto the mountain of fan mail she likely receives on a weekly basis, to maybe one day be sifted through? Would it even make it through whatever high tech screening system we assume all mail to government officials must pass through? Would we be added to some weird government watch list for trying to mail a block of wood and a pile of marble tiles to the Supreme Court? I mean … you NEVER KNOW WITH THESE THINGS. Regardless, we embraced the “what if” and mailed the package.
A week later, I checked the mail and almost fainted. Sandwiched between a Paper Source catalog and some boring spam advert was a cream envelope, labeled with the return address of the Supreme Court of the United States. My hand developed a slight tremor as I turned the envelope over to reveal “Chambers of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg” printed on the back flap.
I rushed inside and yelled for Kristen in the most dramatic voice I could muster. We shared a mini-freak-out moment before I sliced the envelope open as cleanly as possible (because there is no doubt this will become a priceless artifact in our life’s story). And then there were tears as we read aloud the handwritten note Justice Ginsburg had sent us on her official embossed stationery.
“Dear Kristen & Lindsey,
Huge appreciation for the samples of your artistry. I will display your creations at home and in chambers for family, friends, and staff to enjoy.
With thanks, and every good wish,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg”
We are still in shock that Justice Ginsburg took the time to personally write us a note. We might as well change our Twitter and Instagram bios to read, “received a letter from RBG,” because this is the single best highlight of our lives, so far. We want to SHOUT IT TO EVERYONE WE MEET FROM NOW UNTIL FOREVER. Because OHMIGOD seriously, how will we ever top this moment??!
And yes, OF COURSE we bought a frame that very day to forever memorialize this priceless piece of cream stationery on the wall of the very office in which I currently sit writing this post. Justice Ginsburg will probably never know how much her small act of appreciation has impacted our lives. We took a small, tiny chance … not knowing the outcome. And IT WAS SO WORTH IT because she SAW OUR WORK and WROTE US BACK!!!
ONE CHANCE LEADS TO ANOTHER
This weekend, we also took a chance as a vendor at a new market (new to us) in Nashville, Tennessee: Tomato Art Fest. We’re always nervous to try out a new festival. ESPECIALLY one in which we’ve never physically attended. It’s scary because we don’t really know what to expect. Will people like our art? Will it be a complete bust? Will we even make money??
Every art vendor measures success differently. So, it’s difficult to ask a fellow vendor, “Should I do this show? Is this show worth it?” Because “worth it” means something different to different vendors. A good show for one maker could be a mediocre one for another. When measuring the success of a market, here are some of the things we look at:
- Did we make a profit and reach/surpass our sales goals?
- Was the show organized behind the scenes and did it provide a positive vendor experience?
- Was it well-attended by our target market?
- Was our artwork well-received by the attendees, even if they didn’t purchase anything?
- What additional opportunities (new stockists, future show ideas or invites, important connections to industry people, etc.) did we get as a result of the show?
- Were we able to share our story with customers and help them understand the “why” behind what we do?
Well … GOOD NEWS! Luckily, we can answer YES to most of the questions above. So, other than it being SUPER BOILING OMG SO HOT outside, Tomato Art Fest was a success for us!
Our favorite part of the day was connecting with fellow RBG fans. Can you guess our best-selling item of the day? That would be our RBG art. Taking that earlier chance provided us with a personal story to tell to customers who came into our booth and showed interest in one of our dissent collar pieces. It sparked conversations and helped us connect with other RBG fans, which made our selling experience that much more enjoyable. So, thanks for coming out, East Nashville! Now, if the weather could be NOT so BOILING for next year …
TAKEAWAY: TAKE CHANCES
Our takeaway from this week was the reminder that we can’t be too afraid to try new things. Whether it’s taking a chance on a new experience (like sending fan mail to someone you admire) or on something that could potentially grow your business (expanding your brand into a new market), don’t be afraid to take chances.
Until next week!
Lindsey & Kristen